The American “Red” Cross

Dennis Prager is on fire about the Red Cross banning songs with the words “God” or “prayer” from their event in Orange County. His take is that they didn’t really apologize–they just regretted that anyone found their decision offensive. It’s not quite that bad. If you read their press release, they do admit that they made a “mistake in judgment,” but the general tone is as Dennis said. They stand by whatever “principles” resulted in that judgment.

This is political correctness run utterly amok, and it seems to have appropriately ignited a firestorm when carried out by an organization called the American Red Cross.

As Dennis says, by their warped criteria, they can’t say “American” and they can’t say “Cross” because these terms are deemed potentially offensive.

That only leaves “Red.”

Porous Snake

I thought that the purpose of Anaconda was to cordon off the area so as not to allow any of the “rebels” (and what’s up with that word, anyway? They’re not “rebels”–they’re colonial oppressors and terrorists) escape.

So why are we hearing news reports about some of them escaping?


Well, the Administration is 0 for 2 in policy in the last few days, once on the domestic front, and once on the war front.

First was last week’s totally unprincipled decision to protect the steel industry. And now the president is undermining Israel’s fight for survival (and our justification for our own actions abroad) by making a wretched moral equivalence between terror and defense against it.

Is he morphing into his father?

What Do You Want To Do?

The Orlando Sentinel has commissioned a public opinion poll about the public’s attitudes toward NASA. At first reading, it’s not good news for the agency, or for those who want NASA to send people to Mars. However, I think that it’s potentially great news for our nation’s future in space–I’ll explain why in a minute.

There are some nice graphics with the piece as well.

In the first one, people expressed their view of what NASA’s purpose should be. Research and development was by far the most popular (though it’s hard to know if people really understand what this means). The bad news for Marsaholics is that only 9% support a mission to the Red Planet. There’s more support (at 11%) for a total disbanding of the agency.

The second one shows that of all federal programs that might need cutting for war or budget purposes, more people (37%) think that NASA should be on the chopping block than any other federal area. Tax cuts come in number two, at 26%.

And just to put things in budgetary perspective, there’s a graph of spending on NASA as percentage of the federal budget for the past four decades. There was a big spike during the Apollo program of about 4% of the budget (also, recall that the budget was much smaller then, relative to the economy), after which it’s settled down to a steady one percent or so, year after year.

This last is significant because, among the many other things that most people don’t understand about NASA, they’re unaware of how little of the federal budget it actually is. You could completely zero it, and it would only provide enough funds to provide Health and Human Services with funding for a few days. This showed up in similar polls that we used to do when I worked at Rockwell International, in which large numbers of people would guess that NASA took up to half of the federal budget.

However, as little as it is, it is not to say that the money is well spent. And the real problem with this poll (like most polls) is the “false-choice” aspect of it. For instance, they didn’t ask about the Moon. They didn’t ask about public space travel. But one might infer from the overwhelming support for “research and development” that the public might hope that the program would provide something useful, and that they recognize that pure science and exploration cannot justify the budget.

If NASA can present a compelling vision as to how the space program will actually impact individual lives, I see a potential opening here for a renaissance of space. What these polls need to do is to stop asking, vicariously, what NASA should do, and instead ask the people themselves, “What do you want to do in space?”

When they have the answer to that question, they may have the basis for some kind of policy direction.

Oh, and as a side note, well…two side notes:

John Pike, space-policy expert and director of the defense think tank, was more blunt.

“Rich white men like the space program; other people don’t,” he said. “Rich people are prepared to spend money on luxuries that poorer people aren’t.”

Well, at least he didn’t say “stupid white men…”

Side note number one–labeling (or in this case, lack of labeling) press bias. One would have no idea from this neutral description that John comes from the left end of the political spectrum, and that his “defense think tank” is actually devoted to ensuring that we never develop significant weapons capability in space, either for space control, or even to defend ourselves against ballistic missiles.

Side note number two–John is a “space-policy expert” only in his own mind, and in the minds of the journalists (particularly liberal journalists—NPR just loves him, or at least they used to) who always reflexively go to him, mainly because he’s good at sound bites.

Unfortunately, the press is lazy and unwilling to cultivate a broader stable of experts–once they find someone who both gives good soundbites and tells them what they want/expect to hear, they tend to return to the same (sometimes foul) well, instead of getting some fresh viewpoints. If that sounds like a rant about how come they never ask me…it probably is.

Pedophilic Priests

I was just listening to Bush’s press conference, and when asked about the problem of pedophilia in the Church (Lord only knows why the reporter thought that this was an issue for the President), he replied something to the effect that he knew many in the Church hierarchy, and that they were men of integrity.

I haven’t said much on this issue, but I do have a couple of thoughts. First, I find it curious that many of the same people who claim that being gay is “unnatural” and sinful because it can’t result in progeny simultaneously require that their priesthood be celibate, which to my mind is equally, and perhaps even more, “unnatural”…

Second, I am not a lawyer, but it seems to me that anyone in the Church hierarchy who helped keep such crimes quiet, and simply transferred transgressors to other parishes to sin again, were aiding and abetting felonies, and engaging in a criminal conspiracy. Is there any reason (legal reason, that is, not political) that they shouldn’t be so charged?

Do They Get Federal Benefits, Too?

Others have commented on this, but I can’t let it pass. The INS has belatedly issued student visas to Mohamed Atta and Marwan Al-Shehhi to take flying lessons.

They are both, of course, six months deceased, having notoriously flown airplanes into the World Trade Center, sans such visas.

In a related story, President Bush is angry about it.

“The president is very displeased. He wants to know how and why this happened and he wants it fixed,” White House spokesman Scott McClellan said. “This is unacceptable.”

Former INS District Director Tom Fischer told CNN that “the letters should never have been sent.”

No kidding?

Their delivery, he said, was “a case of the right hand not knowing what the left hand was doing.”

Can someone remind me, again, just why it was so important and urgent to federalize airport security?

Fun With CCDs

I found this little story over at Natalie Solent’s site, about a man who wrecked his digital camera by dunking it in a lake, and now claims to like the results.

Web designer (and high-tech camera designer) Bill Simon comments:

This is classic. In sales it is called turning a bug into a feature.

Okay. Now he has a “magic” camera.

Big deal. All he can take are “magic” pictures. But with a program like Paint Shop Pro, I can make any of my normal pictures as magical as I wish and I still get normal pictures.

This guy doesn’t want to face the fact that he wrecked an $800 camera. But with this hype the camera will become worth whatever the new age world can afford…Say, $250,000. So I guess he gets the last laugh.

Biting Commentary about Infinity…and Beyond!

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